How to Cope With Conflict at Work

How to Cope With Conflict at Work

The thing about working with other people is that you’re not going to hit it off with everyone. It’s the same in our private lives. We’re a diverse race and each and every one of us will see different qualities or faults in everyone we meet. Who knows what makes us warm to some personalities, while no matter how hard we try, we can’t stand others?

However when it comes to our relationships at work, there’s one big difference. If you clash with a particular person at work, it’s much harder to give them a wide berth and almost impossible to ignore them completely.


The other problem is that if you’re working closely with someone day in, day out, it’s rather like a marriage. You feel you have a right to pick at every little thing they do and criticise them if they do something you don’t agree with.

For instance, you know how you might moan at your partner for leaving the loo seat up or the top off the toothpaste. The same sort of things can drive you mad at work. ‘Why does John never put paper in the printer’? ‘Why does Karen never make the tea’? It’s a similar situation because you’re spending a lot of time together – possibly more than with your partner!

Not pilchard sandwiches again!

So what are the things that wind us up the most about our workmates? We’ve put our heads together and these seem to be the most common workplace annoyances:


It’s not big and it’s not clever. Whether it’s done intentionally or not, stabbing your colleagues in the back is unforgiveable and it’s the quickest way to lose friends and make enemies.


While it’s tempting to have a good old gossip by the vending machine, it’s never a good move. More often than not, the gossip will get back to the person and they’ll be hurt. Even if it doesn’t, in everyone else’s eyes, you’ll just look spiteful and mean.

Telling everyone you hate your job

There’s nothing more frustrating than someone constantly telling you how much they want to leave. No one wants to work with such a negative person and it’s really bad for morale.

Eating smelly food

It might seem silly but this is a really common complaint! When you’ve got to sit in the office all afternoon, the last thing you want is the whole place stinking of pilchards or boiled eggs. Is a cheese sandwich really such a difficult choice?

Sucking up to the boss

Don’t be that person that says one thing to everyone else and then something completely different to the boss. It might put you in the boss’s good books but it won’t get the rest of the team on your side.

Being lazy

This is probably the worst crime of all. When everyone else is pulling their weight and getting the job done, it’s the most frustrating thing to know that one person is hiding in the background doing very little or calling in sick at the first sign of a sniffle. We recently carried out a sickness at work survey, why not take a look at the results for youselves?

Don’t bottle it up

Some people can deal with conflict at work but for others, it can make life a misery and be a serious blow to their confidence. If you find it hard to work with someone or you encounter real problems on a day-to-day basis, the first thing you need to do is talk about it. If you can talk directly to the person first, that’s always the best solution. If that doesn’t work, try talking in confidence to your line manager. Perhaps they’ll be able to help you see a different point of view or suggest tactics to deal with someone else’s behaviour.

If the situation really becomes a problem and you can’t see a way forward, deal with it as soon as you can – before it gets too big to resolve. The ACAS website is a really useful place to start – it’s packed full of useful ways to deal with situations at work and also has lots of training resources to help keep your workplace happy

How can you prevent conflict?

If you lead a team or manage an organisation, there are some easy ways you can ensure a harmonious working environment and nip problems in the bud.

Be encouraging

Give your employees good feedback and straight away they’ll feel like their work is valued. As their role model it will also teach them to do the same with their colleagues.

Laugh a little

Allow your employees to have a little bit of fun and it will benefit everything they do and foster better working relationships. We spend a lot of time at work so if it’s all seriousness and no fun, it’s bound to impact on productivity.

Pick up on the signs

No matter how good you are at promoting a positive environment, you’re bound to have conflicts from time to time. Try to be aware of what’s going on and what sort of conflict is brewing. If you know the cause, you can help find a solution.

Get help

Don’t be afraid to enlist help from the experts. If you have an HR department get them on board as early as you can. If you don’t, start by talking to someone at ACAS or download their useful booklet on managing conflict in the workplace.

Creating a great environment

At Rainbow Zebra, we firmly believe that having a pleasant working environment helps to boost morale and make everyone happier at work. If you need help creating a happy space, call us on 0800 092 1985 and we’ll be delighted to help you with all your furniture, storage or accessory needs. Or why not order online now?

Posted by Paul Randall
30th October 2015